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I'm making a website that you can upload images to. Implementing social network sharing buttons for content is turning out to be a pain and not to my liking in that it requires extraneous Javascript to be introduced and negatively affects the aesthetic (obviously some agree with me, as the Ghostery browser extension has an option to remove them from any webpages visited), so I'm wondering if they are an absolute must if I want to get some good traffic.

I noticed that they are on most every site (including sites that contain things that most people under no circumstances would want to share on any social network), and even then there is no real standardized button set - every site typically has a Facebook and Twitter button, but some offer Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, etc. variably.

Do people really use these buttons or do most just copy paste the link into their sharing platform of choice? I'm not a social network user so I am unsure myself.

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    As a user, I have never used one and block all of them so I don't even see them. – PatomaS Mar 15 '14 at 11:31
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    I think the answer depends on who your audience is. For example, I think tech-heads are less likely to share than Moms or teens though tech-heads will share content that is really really good but not everything they think is good. – closetnoc Mar 16 '14 at 0:12
  • For most sharing buttons you can implement them as links without Javascript. – Jeremy Halliwell Mar 16 '14 at 9:05
  • Side note: I guess Ghostery removes them for privacy and not for aesthetic reasons. – unor Apr 14 '14 at 12:17
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You seem to be asking two separate questions, "Do people really use social network sharing buttons" and whether social network sharing buttons "are an absolute must if I want to get some good traffic". It may surprise you that there may not be a positive correlation between these two questions.

There is an interesting case study on the Visual Website Optimizer blog about how having social media sharing buttons on an ecommerce site actually decreased conversion on an ecommerce website.

They noted an 11% boost in conversion once the social media sharing buttons were removed.

To me, the buttons seem like a fad, anyway, with people putting them in because "everyone else has them". I'm guessing that in a few years they will be as prevalent as site hit counters, time and weather widgets, and animated gifs of the American flag.

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It seems like you're not the only person to wonder this; it's the current CSS Tricks poll. The results, as of posting:

I can go either way. (32%, 1,799 Votes)

I don't ever use sharing buttons. I share my own way. (60%, 3,399 Votes)

I typically only share pages that have sharing buttons. (8%, 458 Votes)

These are technical users who like taking polls, of course; I think closetnoc's comment is very pertinent here. The decision should depend on your target audience, and what your service is used for. Does your audience/use case involve social networking? Does it make sense to share the kinds of images your service is hosting?

Concentrate on providing a good service first and foremost. Getting traffic doesn't require social networking buttons, but it can't hurt.

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I have Facebook buttons in some of my pages, and people has shared them along time, but only the most useful ones, as you may expect. I guess they would increase the sharing ratio, since surely not everyone is willing to take the time to copy and paste a link. If you don't like the idea of pasting the code in every page, and you are using PHP pages, you can use an include( ) to dinamically paste at once a block containing one or more different social buttons. Albeit sometimes the developers of these buttons give you two separate pieces of code recommending you to put them in different places on your page, in my experience they work fine when you place both codes together.

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We have a webshop in jewelry, we get about 600/900 visits per week, I guess about 5 Pinterest shares ( pretty pictures ;) ).
This isn't a lot, but it's more then zero. Just spend time one this once and make it work and you'll have a slow'n'steady source of exposure.
From a SEO point of view, getting links back from socialmedia gives points, so if you actually get them to share, it will increase so (bit by bit).

You can use something like ShareThis (my preference), or AddThis, and toy around with when you load the code to make the page look faster.
I'm talking about a webshop, which doesnt have the highest "OMG-im-gonna-share-this" factor.


As for my personal principles as visitor-on-other-websites, I rarely share articles (like news), and if I do, I just copy the link to my FB. But I have to note, I'm not the most active poster and I only have FB (can't be bothered with all the others).

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  • 5 Pinterest shares by using your button, or in total (i.e., could also be shared via the Pinterest site)? – unor Apr 14 '14 at 18:07
  • Via the buttons. – Martijn Apr 14 '14 at 18:11
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it requires extraneous Javascript to be introduced

Wrong - With services such as Addthis, you will have to just copy paste some code. As Jeremy said, most can be added without JS.

I'm wondering if they are an absolute must

It is not an absolute must. In fact, there are no absolute musts in web development. If you do your SEO right, you may probably get more traffic from search engines than from social networks. But it depends on your website, though. I would add that having social sharing buttons and making them catchy (not compromising on aesthetics) would add up to traffic.

Do people really use these buttons

Yes, people do use these buttons to share content. Source : my weekly addthis analytics .

As closetnoc mentioned, it depends on the educational level of your usergroup. It also depends on the type of your website. But it does not harm to add it if it helps even 25% of your user group or if it brings in 10% extra traffic as it really takes only one minute to add.

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Users use it a quite a lot, most usually have a number underneath it to say how many times it had been shared. You could benefit quite a bit especially as your site will be about images, social users love to share images and it goes viral quickly. One obvious caveat is that you'll need visitors in the first place. take mashable.com as an example their articles get shared 1000s of times.

If you are worried about bloat from javascript then create your own without using third-party services, I've created some in the past just be finding out the sharer page on each social network.

Its not absolutely necessary but it increases your chance of getting more visitors and of going viral.

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The best answer would be the one I'd give as USER.

I do use social share buttons, as long as they have nice Post Templates and wouldn't fill my timeline with their advertising.

This is an example of a share I'd use.

[Content Title] - [Link] - [Some reference to the author]

Let's not talk only about myself. There's people whose timeline is mostly shares, it all depends of the content they share. For images, I suggest having share buttons.

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As @Jeremy Halliwell noted, if I implement share buttons I usually do so without using the JS widgets that most services provide.

I do this out of concern for load times and user experience.

Seeing widgets that use separate images (rather than sprites) for the icons, not to mention that load multiple CSS and JS files drives me crazy. Even if they load asynchronously they can still cause problems (like not being able to leave or interact with the page until they finish loading) with performance and user experience.

CSS Tricks explains how to do it yourself on WordPress.

My personal opinion, for the vast majority of sites I work on mirrors this one.

That said, I'm wrong a lot.

Which is why I don't guess, I test. Set up event tracking (of people clicking those buttons) and find out how often they do on the site in question, then make an informed decision.

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